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PR Agency Onboarding Checklist for Small Businesses

Public relations background

PR Agency Onboarding Checklist for Small Businesses

Public relations allow businesses and brands to foster meaningful connections with customers, develop brand loyalty, and increase awareness. If maximized properly, companies can elevate their position for more success. If you’re planning to hire a partner to help you, check out our PR agency onboarding checklist for small businesses here.

Public relations (PR) is all about storytelling and communicating with conviction. Its power can help small businesses grow and unlock opportunities that seemed far-fetched before. Unfortunately, as straightforward as that sound, most small businesses don’t have the in-house capabilities to launch their very own PR campaigns.

Hiring a dedicated PR agency is the best option, yet many small businesses doubt it’s worth it. Considering how meticulous the vetting process is and how expensive it can be at first glance, many small business owners are hesitant.

PR is not the same as advertising and marketing. It’s fundamentally different and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Successful PR helps your brand nurture a positive reputation from the general public, helping you tell your story and expand your reach. If you’re among the ones that see its value but are daunted by the onboarding process, continue reading this. Here’s our PR agency onboarding checklist for small businesses.

Still looking for the right partner? Find the leading PR agencies here on The Manifest.

PR Is For Small Businesses Too

One of the biggest misconceptions of public relations is that it’s only for bigger corporations — that’s only a myth. No matter the industry, business model, or size, PR can provide tremendous value.

Firstly, it’s relatively affordable and accessible. For a lot of small businesses, every dollar spent should count. PR is capable of getting positive words and brand exposure from journalists and influencers, bringing in increased visibility for your brand.

Effective PR strategies can help you make a great first impression on new clients. You can also integrate it into your marketing strategy and sales processes to see better results. There are plenty of perks to be unlocked with the right PR team.

Learn more about the advantages of PR here: “6 Benefits Of Hiring A PR Company

PR Agency Onboarding Checklist for Small Businesses 

Compared to larger companies, small business owners don’t have extensive experience working with service providers like PR agencies. The lack of expertise doesn’t help when it comes to preparing and knowing what to expect, making the onboarding process more intimidating for them.

Let’s divide the whole process into three main phases — vetting, signing, and integration — to help make the experience less unnerving.

PR onboarding checklist

Vetting Stage

Once you’ve decided that you need a PR agency to help your business, the first thing to do is to vet the options on the market carefully.

There are tons of agencies out there, but not everyone can accommodate your needs. When looking for a partner, setting criteria can help you quickly assess and identify the perfect agency.

Take a look at our checklist for this phase:

  • Look at The Manifest and Clutch directories to find the leading PR agencies
  • Review their client testimonials and case studies
  • Verify if there were common or recurring complaints about their work
  • Check their references and referrals
  • Compare their work with other agencies
  • Do your due diligence
    • Look at their business permit and license
    • Check if they have proof of tax compliance
    • Ask for a certificate of good standing
    • Check if they have insurance 
    • Check their confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreement
  • Request for a proposal
  • If you’re still having a hard time identifying which firm to connect with, get in touch with The Manifest or Clutch’s team for a consultation

As mentioned above, having a set of criteria will help make this stage easier. It’s also your duty to know at least the basics or fundamentals of PR to know what type of services you will require from them.

Aside from their experience within your market, your budget and location are also big factors to consider. Take your time to make sure everything aligns with your needs rather than having any regrets in the future.

Read here: “PR Pricing Guide 2023

Signing Stage

The meticulous work doesn’t end with the first stage. You need to be in your A-game during the signing stage because before you put your signature on those papers, you’ll need to negotiate the terms and read the deal thoroughly.

Here’s our checklist for this stage:

  • Schedule an appointment with the vendor to request the contract
  • If needed, negotiate the pricing and terms accordingly
  • Thoroughly read the contract 
    • Check the standard terms and conditions
    • Make sure the language is clear
    • Know both parties’ obligations
    • Review indemnification and dispute resolution clauses
    • Define payment terms
    • Clarify delivery benchmarks and metrics
    • Set expectations for deliverables and milestones
    • Know what they will require from you
    • Study how the contract ends
    • Check the renewal or retention provisions
  • Consult with a lawyer if needed
  • Consult with the rest of your leadership team or co-owners
  • Sign the contract

Usually, service providers like PR agencies have set templates for their contracts. It’s a business owner's duty to double, triple, or even quadruple-check every detail in those contracts to avoid unfair risks. It’s also important to keep asking questions, especially if there are any lingering concerns before you sign the contract.

Moreover, you should also ask for the main point of contact from there on. Ask who will be the account manager you can rely on for any follow-ups or phone call meetings.

Integration Stage

Congratulations, you’ve enlisted a PR agency to help your small business in its journey. However, a signed contract doesn’t mean your job is done. In fact, the final stage is as crucial and even busier than the first two stages.

This part will cover everything after you sign the contract until you let them do their work. It may seem overwhelming, but being organized is key here.

Take a look at our checklist for the integration stage:

  • Assign responsibilities to your internal team members
  • Prepare a presentation for the kickoff meeting that includes the following content:
    • Your company’s introduction and FAQs
    • An introduction to the PR agency
    • An outline of the project’s purpose and objectives
    • An outline of the project scope
    • Regular workflows and responsibilities
    • Target milestones and timelines
  • Arrange what is the best schedule for holding check-in meetings and reports
  • Prepare a document containing the contact information of every individual involved etc. phone numbers, email addresses 
  • Prepare a spreadsheet containing social media and CRM login access 
  • Decide which platform you will use for the partnership i.e. Slack, Google Chats, and Skype
  • Send out welcome emails and invite everyone to the kickoff call
  • If needed, decide which project management tool/s will be used for the project i.e. Trello or Asana
  • Conduct the kickoff meeting
  • Prepare an exit strategy

In business, exit strategies are crucial to ensuring your company can mitigate unforeseen challenges and failure. Preparing an exit strategy doesn’t mean you lack confidence in your service provider. In case the engagement doesn’t go as planned, an exit strategy will protect your small business from risks.

Ready to Hire a PR Company?

Every organization needs some kind of PR — startups, nonprofits, large corporations, and even small businesses. Whether you need help with creating a great brand identity or enhancing your public reputation, PR agencies can add value to your growing business.

The onboarding experience is essential to setting the tone for your working relationship. It’s important to make sure you start off on the right foot.

Just looking at it, the entire process seems to be a handful and stressful experience. Staying on top of everything, being organized, and knowing what to expect can help you make the process less intimidating. Now that you’ve read this piece, you’ll have clear expectations and know what to prepare. Work with the best PR agencies on The Manifest.

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